My Yoga Journey
Dani Sackman Carroll, Co-owner & Managing Director
I stepped into my first yoga studio experience with a friend from work in August 2009. I had never done yoga or anything remotely like it. I went because she asked me to, and being the people-pleaser that I was I accepted her invitation simply to make a friend happy. I was 180 pounds, a smoker, and Taco Bell was a food group. I was athletic all my life, mainly water sports, but had always struggled with positive self-image and living a healthy lifestyle. In the two years prior I had gone through complete life turmoil. I had my first experiences with death and had no idea how to handle the pain at such a young age. I turned to drugs, alcohol, and bad people to fill the void that was inside me, which it didn’t. Luckily I had wonderful parents who were able to make difficult decisions and got me the help I so desperately needed, although through it all I never really learned who I was or how I fit into the chaos of the world around me. I had somewhat balanced my life by the time I was in the yoga studio, but I was still lost.
My friend had failed to tell me that the class was over an hour, that it was heated to over 100 degrees and that I shouldn’t have worn what I was wearing. I walked into the blistering hot room sporting my baggy sweat pants, sweat shirt, and tight fitting undershirt unknowing of exactly what was about to happen. I positioned myself on my rented yoga mat at the back of the room in front of the door where it was cooler, per the instructor’s suggestion, and prepared myself for the unknown. I remember looking at this glowing yoga teacher who floated across the room and thinking, “I could never be her, but she is amazing”. I don’t remember much else from that class but I do vividly recall how I felt afterwards; it was transformative. From there it was history: I fell in love with yoga.
Over the course of two months of steady practice I had quit smoking, changed my eating habits, and began loosing weight! I found new friends who inspired and challenged me, and a community that I could be a part of without needed to people-please. In the next two years I earned my first 3 yoga certifications, began my teaching career, lost 60 pounds, and met life-long friends. I quit my corporate jobs, and decided to dedicate my life to what was making me truly happy for the first time. My family probably thought I was crazy, and to be honest I had that thought myself once or twice. I think sometimes when you are transforming yourself, shedding old layers of who you are, you have to go a little crazy to let it go and discover who you are now.
In 2015 I completed my 500 hour Yoga Therapy certification in Rishikesh, India under the guidance of the 1984 Yoga Champion of the World, Yogi Chetan Mahesh ji. After 3 months of living in an Ashram, surrounded by the beautiful chaos of India, I found my place in the world. Standing in the Ganges River I re-affirmed my belief that through yoga, each practitioner has the ability to heal, love, and grow in every sense of the words. It is through the practice of yoga that you discover your most raw and authentic self.
My ongoing passion is to help others discover their most authentic selves through this power and in a supported space. As more people spread their light, the world shines a little brighter each day and we become AS ONE.
Now, here I am, an Expert Registered Yoga Teacher (500H) with over 3,000 hours of teaching experience, 7 years of personal practice, and am floating across the yoga studio, my happy place. Yoga has helped my body, mind, spirit, and guided me to my most authentic self. My goal each time I teach is to remove the dogma of yoga in order to reveal that everyone has the opportunity to learn through accessible sequencing, thought-provoking themes, and mindful music. I am thrilled to join the Ekam Family as co-owner with Joe Pham, and to bring the light to Newport Beach, California.
Why I Love Yoga and the Creation of Ekam
Joe Pham, Founder & Co-owner
I first found yoga as part of a DVD fitness program. I really hated it. During the Fall Equinox of 2011, I took part in a 108 Sun Salutations class. That particular practice broke me down physically and began to open me up spiritually. At that point in my life, I had not seen or spoken to my mom for over 18 months. We had a falling out and we are both incredibly stubborn. What I now know as my ego prevented me from reaching out to my mom all of those months, even though she lived just miles away. After the 108 sun salutations, I remember thinking “I haven’t talked to my mom in a long time, that’s weird.” So I simply picked up my phone and called her. She didn’t answer, so I drove to her house. I spent the evening reconnecting with her. My youngest Nathan was 5 at that time and I realized that his grandmother never saw him as a 4 year old, which was wrong and made me sad. The following weekend, my mom came over to my house to see her grandchildren for the first time in nearly 2 years.
Driving home from my mom’s house late that evening, I had two distinct insights. First, this yoga thing was way more than moving around on a mat. Second, that I wanted to open a yoga studio one day, so that others could have a chance to experience their own transformation.
With greater awareness of the ego, I gave my ego a name – Jack, short for Jack-ass. I now realize that for those few hours that evening after the 108 Sun Salutations, I had no ego. There was no right/wrong, no you/me, no separateness, no fear; just love and oneness. Nothing was preventing me from expressing my true self, and my true self wanted to see my mom. The battle with our ego is one of the toughest battles we face in life.
I soon learned that the real benefit of showing up on my mat was that I could fully show up off my mat. It’s about showing up and being present; being present at work with my QSC team, being present at home with my family, being present with my friends, present with the world around me. Yoga was helping me to be present. You are not living if you are not living NOW.
In time, I began the process of opening a studio. The notion of oneness – oneness with myself and oneness with the world – became a powerful notion and influence in my life, and so the original name of the studio was As One. For legal trademark reasons, that name is not allowed for a yoga studio. Staying with the notion of One, Ekam was born. In Sanskrit, the word Ekam means One.
It is my hope that Ekam becomes a place for you to find your yoga, whatever that might be. Whether it’s to become stronger, more flexible, or more spiritual, yoga can be whatever it is you need it to be. In the end, I wish that each of you find peace through your practice of yoga. If Ekam is able to help you down that path, then its purpose is complete.
P.S. Nowadays, each time that I get on the mat, I feel that Jack gets a little weaker and Joe gets a little stronger. Lol! I love you YOGA! And my mom loves you too!